Face mask waste generation and management during the COVID-19 pandemic: An overview and the Peruvian case

Fernando G. Torres, Gabriel E. De-la-Torre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has driven massive consumption of personal protective equipment (PPE) worldwide. Single-use face masks are one of the most used PPE to prevent the transmission of the virus. However, mismanagement of such materials threatens the environment with a new form of plastic pollution. Researchers argue that it is necessary to develop and implement innovative ways to manage and recycle PPE in order to reduce their impacts on the environment. In the present work, we have reviewed and discussed the recent development of sustainable face mask alternatives and recycling and repurposing routes under the COVID-19 pandemic context. Moreover, we have conducted estimations of the daily face mask waste generation in Peru, a developing country struggling with a poor solid waste management framework and infrastructure. Unlike previous studies, our equation incorporates the “economically active population” variable in order to provide more precise estimations, while evaluating single-use and reusable scenarios. The scenarios of incorporating reusable face masks significantly reduced the amount of solid waste generated in Peru. In situ evidence shows that face masks are polluting the streets and beaches of Peru, probably driven by mismanagement and poor environmental awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147628
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Environment
  • Pollution
  • PPE
  • Protective equipment
  • Solid waste
  • Surgical mask


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